Monday, 1 May 2017

Of Trolls and Chinese Whispers

So, I’m currently reading Apocalypse for the blog, and I was struck by its dedication.
“To Jaya, Dragontrainer, and all the fans”
For those who don’t know, Jaya and Dragontrainer were posters on Phyrexia.com, a website of old especially focused on the storyline. And when I say old, I mean its front page still wishes us a happy 2009. Its continuity section and forum have been… a bit of a mixed blessing for the storyline community really. On the one hand, it was crucial in keeping old information and stories in circulation long after the comics and magazines they originated in ceased publication, and it was visited by several Magic authors over the years who revealed behind the scenes info there. On the other hand, it suffered from a lack of critical reading and citation. Fan theories got presented as fact a bit too often for my tastes.

Today, I want to show you how easily the entire storyline community got duped due to a lack of annotations and the obscurity of some original sources.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

The Myths of Magic


The Myths of Magic
Editor - Jess Lebow
Cover Art - Michael Sutfin
Released June 2000

So, when I did The Colors of Magic I said that I was going to save the future anthologies until after the Weatherlight Saga was done, but then I realized that there was only one anthology published during the Saga, and that it introduces a minor character that will be featured in Invasion block. So although we all really want to get to Invasion, it really makes more sense to cover this book first.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

The Thran


Writer - J. Robert King
Cover art - Gary Riddell
First released in December 1999

SUMMARY
The book opens on the start of the Thran-Phyrexian war. An alliance of several Thran city states, dwarves, elves, minotaurs and other races face of against Halcyon, the capitol of the Thran empire, led by Yawgmoth. Then we flashback to 9 years earlier, when the empire is at the pinnacle of its power. It's at peace after a civil war that ousted a faction of eugenicists, and a bright new age seems to be dawning due to the artifact wonders created by a man named Glacian. But not everything is as lovely as it seems: underneath Halcyon lie the Caves of the Damned, where the undesirables are sent and where disease is rampant. One day one of these Untouchables, a man named Gix, crawls up into the city, stabs Glacian with a powerstone and infects him with the disease. As the doctors' spells only make things worse, Glacian's wife Rebbec only sees one option and recalls Yawgmoth, the exiled leader of the eugenicists.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Barrin's Journal (aka Prophecy online)


Writer - Scott McGough

SUMMARY
Eh... Barrin writes a note about going to Jamuraa.

That's it.

Perhaps I should figure out a new format for these mini-reviews...

REVIEW, TRIVIA, CONTINUITY & TIMELINE
Another expansion set, another small flavor tidbit for the website. You can find it here, on the archived Prophecy product page. Like the Nemesis online story it is too short to do a proper review of it. It looks like a random note Barrin could have written, so... it succeeds in what it sets out to do, I guess?

That said, I do like this "story", as it hits on a lot of things in a very short space. It builds up the Invasion and it references back to the way Urza let Gatha do his thing in Keld back in Bloodlines. Furthermore, it gives a minimal amount of flavor to some of the main features of the Prophecy expansion that don't even get a mention in the novel. Barrin mentions wanting to study Rhystic magic, and that the Avatars (which were the face of the set) are beings that manifest at the site of "particularly intense battles". It's not much, but it is better than nothing.


As I noted in the Nemesis review while discussing Lin Sivvi/Liin Sivi's name, it seems that the continuity department and Magic R&D have started drifting away from each other at this point. The novels appear to be written with only an outline of the set in mind, while these short stories are written after the set's completion, and thus have a better idea of what to reference. You saw this in the Nemesis online story as well, as it mentioned the Laccolith and the Parallax cards, which were prominent in the set but absent from the novel. We'll see this escalate over time, until Onslaught block has novels that have nothing to do with what is going on in the sets, with the story that was shown on the cards only being explained on website articles.

There isn't much to say about continuity and the timeline here. The journal was clearly written in 4205, between Barrin's appearances in A Time for Remembrance and Prophecy. Other than the already mentioned reference to Bloodlines there isn't much continuity, and even that reference is pretty vague. I do like the little map Barrin drew, as it gives us a teensy bit more info on this region of Jamuraa, like the location of Arsenal City. The drawings around the map seem to be intended as visual clues for Rhystic magic. The oily squiggles labelled "black" appear on Rhystic Syphon and Rhystic Tutor, while the crystaline stuff labelled "white" look like the base of Rhystic Shield, and a bit like Glittering Lynx.


Clearly the Invasion is almost upon us. But before that, we need to go back to the very beginning. It is time to finally learn the origin of Yawgmoth and the fall of the Thran!

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Prophecy


Writer - Vance Moore
Cover art - Brom
First released in July 2000

SUMMARY
A faction of Keld led by Latulla has gotten it into their heads that the end times are coming and have invaded north-west Jamuraa (don't worry, that's not the bit we saw in Mirage that we actually care about, just their neighbors), since they believe that it is their ancestral homeland. A Jamuraan soldier called Haddad is captured and enslaved by the Keldons, and through him we learn a lot about Keldon culture and religion. This is interspersed with scenes of Barrin, Rayne and Teferi mustering the Jamuraan defenses.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Prophecy promo comic

Okay, so... we've reached the third Kev Walker promo comic and I've officially run out of things to say about them. They are pretty, it's cool that they did these things back in the day, it's an adaptation of a scene from the novel but different enough that you can't consider it canonical... Keldons apparently look like Lobo sometimes.




This is what it's like being a completist. Sometimes there are things you just can't say anything interesting about, but you got to have them because they are part of whatever it is you collect.

I'll try to get the review of the actual novel up by Tuesday. At least there is actually something to talk about there!

Friday, 17 February 2017

Nemesis Online


SUMMARY
Ehm... this story is available online and it is less than a 1000 words long, so you're really better of just reading it, but if you insist on a summary...

Some Rathi rebels are fighting Stronghold forces and winning. But then a Laccolith Titan shows up and they start losing. But then a Parallax Wave happens and the Stronghold forces are swept away.

REVIEW
It's fine.

What, you want more? We are entering an age now where pretty much all of the story is put into the book line. Any other storyline source that get produced up until... jeez, the Kamigawa vignettes I guess, are really just fluffed up commercials for the books. Their writing is generally okay, but their size means there really isn't much to review. There simply isn't space to do anything special.

TRIVIA

  • Skyshroud Elves thank Gaea. Which makes sense, as the Art of Rath book revealed Skyshroud originally drifted around the seas of Dominaria before it was scooped up and brought to Rath.
  • "The Parallax" never came up in Nemesis, or anywhere else as far as I know. I'm guessing it is a side-effect of the coming Rathi overlay.

TIMELINE

Okay, here we actually do have something to discuss!

The elves talk as if Eladamri is still leading the rebellion, which suggest it happens during the Nemesis novel. Yet that seems unlikely. In that book it is a huge plot point that Crovax, despite being the strongest competitor for the title of Evincar otherwise, failed to score a victory against the rebels. If his forces had a second battle in which he almost won, only to lose his troops to the Parallax, that would most certainly have come up.

So I would say that the only explanation for this is that story takes place during Nemesis's epilogue, or shortly afterwards: before news of Eladamri's disappearance becomes widespread, but after Crovax is named evincar and is campaigning to secure his reign. This would also allow us to tie the Parallax to the Rathi overlay, since the overlay doesn't begin until the last few pages of the book.

Aaaaaaand... that's it! You've been warned, there will be more of these mini reviews in the future. Next up is the Prophecy promo comic, but after that it is back to a proper book! (Or, well, proper... it's still Prophecy...)

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Nemesis


Writer - Paul B. Thompson
Cover art - Mark Zug
Released February 2000

SUMMARY
When the Weatherlight escaped Rath it left two crewmen behind: Crovax and Ertai. Ertai ended up on board skyship Predator, a prisoner of Greven il-Vec. It turns out that Crovax, already turned into a vampire, was brought to Phyrexia and further enhanced. He was then send to Phyrexia to be its new evincar, as Volrath had left to go star in Mercadian Masques. However, while a Phyrexian priest called Kirril worked on Crovax, an inner circle member called Abcal-Dro has the daughter of Eladamri, Avila, killed and used her body to create Belbe. Belbe is implanted with a device that allows Yawgmoth to see through her and is then also send to Rath as an emissary, to oversee the struggle for who becomes the new evincar. Abcal-Dro believes survival of the fittest is the best method of selecting a new ruler.


Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Nemesis promo comic

Another quick post, covering the next promotional comic. I've included the pictures below, but following this link to a thread on MTGSally, where it was first shared by KavuMonarch, is probably more convenient.

If you are really in dire need of a review: Again, the art is fantastic. Very dynamic, amazingly detailed. Not a single bad thing to say about it. There writing is fine, but again it is hard to really critique it when it is just a few scenes from a novel stitched together to wet your appetite. Other than that... I dunno. You can read my comments on the Mercadian Masques promo comic again. Everything I said there applies to this comic as well. The only difference is that this doesn't cover a specific scene, but combines a few small parts of various chapters. This is still an adaptation that varies from the novel version though, and as such shouldn't be considered canon. No matter how pretty it looks.



I hope this comic has made you interested in the novel. The review will be up next weekend!

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Mercadian Masques


Writer - Francis Lebaron
Cover artist - Kev Walker
Released September 1999

SUMMARY
We start where Rath and Storm left off: the Weatherlight just went through the planar portal, only to crash on a farm on an unfamiliar plane. They immediately get mistaken for Ramos, a local deity who also famously crashed from the sky after traveling from another plane, and thus the crew is immediately in trouble. The ship, with Orim still on it, is taken by the Cho-Arrim forest dwellers, while most of the crew is arrested by the Mercadians and taken to their inverted mountain city.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Mercadian Masques promo comic

After the demise of The Duelist Wizards was supposed to go full digital, yet somehow ended up publishing magazines for a while longer. First there was "Duelist presents MAGIC: the Gathering Mercadian Masques" (which going by the text next to its barcode I would just call The Duelist #42, but neither the MTGSalvation Wiki, nor Magic Librarities, nor Wikipedia mention it), then 15 issues of Top Deck. All of these are entirely skippable for those reading through the storyline canon, but there is one feature that I wanted to talk about anyway: the promotional comics for the novel line.

For all sets of Masques block and Invasion Kev Walker took a scene from the novels and adapted those to comic form. There are a bunch of differences between the original scenes and the comics, and obviously the novels trump their adaptations, so I don't count these as canonical. However, they are pretty awesome, and fairly well known after they were shared on MTGSalvation a few years back (9 years still counts as a few. Shut up.)  So they are worth a quick look!